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The Magic Towns of Mexico

Adobe house in Mexico
Credit: Erik Unger | Shutterstock

For those expats who like to explore every corner of a country, there is something you should know about the Magic Towns of Mexico, or in Spanish “Pueblos Mágicos.”

These Pueblos Mágicos can be found throughout Mexico. What makes each of them special is a combination of the strong influence of their indigenous past, the great legacy of the Spanish colonial empire, the preservation of secular and ancestral traditions and the important places within them that reflect historical events in the life of Mexico.

Another characteristic they share is their amazing architecture. When you are in one of these magical places it seems that time goes much slower than what we are used to in our every day life.

The Mexican government created this program in 2001 in order to preserve the uniqueness and legacy of these Pueblos Mágicos. The first town to be declared a Pueblo Mágico was Huasca de Campo, which is in the state of Hidalgo. During 2001, the towns Mexcaltitán, Tepoztlán and Real de Catorce were also declared Pueblos Mágicos.

The objective of this program is mainly to promote Mexico’s tourism industry, with the commitment to preserve these towns as they were. In some cases, this is a little difficult these days with all the pressures from those who promote growth and development.

As the name implies, there is something magical about these places, the people, and their costumes. In total, there are 111 Pueblos Mágicos in Mexico at this time. Once they are declared, they have to keep up with the same criteria that were used when they obtained the title or lose the title but have the opportunity to get it back once they reach the standards again.

This is the case of the town of Papantla in the state of Veracruz. Papantla was declared a Pueblo Mágico in 2006. However, the title was revoked in 2009, but it was regained in 2012. This website provides a list of all the Pueblos Mágicos in Mexico.

For all those small town lovers, we recommend that you keep a few of our favorites in mind for your next trip.

These Pueblitos, or little towns, are so unique you will feel like time does not pass and the rhythm of life slows down. We asked ourselves, “What is the difference between a town and a Magic Town?” One of them we think is defining is that the people who live there make their living by selling products they make themselves to both locals and visitors.

For example, Fernando and I took a trip to one of these Pueblos Mágicos called Tapalpa. Tapalpa is located in the mountains of the state of Jalisco nearly 7,000 feet above sea level. While we were there we visited a beautiful house, a hacienda from the 19th century, to get some tamales de verdolaga (purslane). They were so delicious!

The family started selling their tamales de verdolaga about 20 years ago. Their menu listed one tamale at 20 pesos and two tamales for 40 pesos. What was surprising though, was the menu listed 2,000 tamales for 40,000 pesos! Wow, that’s a large mount of tamales, but people seem to love the tamales at this place. The house is gorgeous but you cannot go beyond the small reception area while you are waiting for your tamales de verdolaga. By the way, they grow their own ingredients. We could see a beautiful fountain surrounded by pots of flowers of many kinds in the center of the house. We are so glad we had a chance to experience this magical place.

Also in Tapalpa, there are many artists all over town and in the surrounding mountains. Tapalpa is surrounded by forest so much of the housing is made of wood. We call them cabañas. It is magical to be at the cabaña with a hot chocolate enjoying the fireplace with our socks on in summer! Outside it can be a bit chilly, but it doesn´t matter because during the day it´s sunny and warm.

Could you picture yourself exploring an old former hospital for indigenous people built by the Franciscans next to two temples that are divided by a plaza surrounded by ancient trees? Visiting one of these Pueblos Mágicos is a special kind of magic. You should go and experience it for yourself.

Hasta la vista.


    • Well Felipe, let us tell you that Mexico is really magical from North to South and from East to West. And maybe you are right, it is related to tourism, but, have you ever visited one of these Pueblos Magicos? If you have, you can’t deny their beauty and their mystical environment that surround them. Saludos.

  1. The Magic Towns article is very well written. In checking my favorite ‘Magic Town’ of Alamos, Sonora see that the video is unfortunately of extremely poor quality and about 50% of the footage is of some other ‘Alamos’ and not Colonial. Alamos was one of the first to be selected for a ‘Pueblo Magico’ (#17) and one of the very few which is still similar today as it was in the 1700’s in terms of size and original colonial structures being intact (187 buildings on the national register).

    • Jim, thank you for your comment and the information about Alamos. We haven’t had the opportunity to visit this Pueblo Magico. We hope one day we will be able to be there. Saludos.


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